Is drowsy driving as dangerous as drunk driving?

Although they affect drivers differently, drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol.

Many drivers in Ohio know that activities like texting behind the wheel and driving under the influence of alcohol are dangerous to themselves and those on the road with them, but many people do not realize that driving while tired can be just as dangerous. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving contributed to 44,000 injuries, 800 deaths and 72,000 car accidents in 2013 alone, but it is likely that drowsy driving statistics are underreported.

Both sleep deprivation and drunk driving affect the body in similar ways. For example, the National Sleep Foundation states that when a person is awake for 18 hours at a time, he or she will experience similar effects behind the wheel as if he or she was driving with a blood alcohol level of .05. After 24 hours of being awake, the effect is similar to driving with a BAC level of .10.

How drowsiness affects driving

While drunk driving and drowsy driving may have similar effects, and make drivers more likely to cause injurious car accidents, they do not always look the same out on the road. In many cases, drunk drivers can slow down their speed and try to react when they come to certain obstacles. However, drowsy drivers can start to fall asleep while going at high speeds, so they are not always able to swerve or brake when necessary.

Even drivers who do not fully fall asleep still pose a threat to themselves and others. In general, drowsiness compromises a driver's ability to pay attention to the road and slows his or her reaction times when the need to steer or brake suddenly occurs. Driving drowsy also negatively affects a person's ability to make good driving decisions.

The warning signs of drowsy driving

Drivers who are too sleep deprived to operate a vehicle may exhibit any of the following signs:

  • Problems remembering the last few miles driven
  • Missing turns or exits
  • Blinking and yawning frequently
  • Hitting rumble strips on the side of the road
  • Drifting between lanes and almost hitting other drivers

Shift workers, commercial drivers, those with sleep apnea, people who do not get enough sleep and those who take medications that cause drowsiness are more likely to drive drowsy.

Contact an attorney

Those in Ohio who are involved in an accident caused by a drowsy or another type of negligent driver may experience mental, physical and financial harm. In this situation, accident victims should contact an attorney in their area for assistance.